How to Meditate: Advice For Beginners From NYC's Top Teachers

By Isabell Winter
By Isabell Winter

Wellness Editor

Although you’ll find plenty of people attesting to the life-changing effects of meditation, the benefits are far from merely anecdotal. A solid meditation practice has been proven to reduce pain, lower stress (and therefore the risk of diseases), and even alter the structure of your brain by increasing gray matter density, enhancing learning, memory and compassion. In other words, it’s time we all made meditation as important to our health regimen as gym sessions, but like any new habit it can be difficult to form. Here, NYC’s top teachers provide their ultimate tips on how to meditate if you’re new to the practice.

Stick with it

When you start a meditation practice, I recommend that you give it some time! You’re not always going to feel good after sitting in meditation for ten minutes. In that sense it’s kind of like starting to exercise. In the beginning you can expect discomfort and you’re not going to lose ten pounds after one visit to the gym, but over time your muscles will adapt and you will see the benefits. Meditation is similar in its cumulative nature. It might be challenging to get going, but you will see the benefits over time. —Lodro Rinzler, co-founder of MNDFL

Focus on what feels good

I don’t think its about being good. It’s about just showing up. Taking the time to pause from all the “stuff” I’m always doing. I like focusing on something that feels good—like my breath and my heartbeat. My mind wanders, I notice it and gently bring it back to my breath and my heart. When it wanders again, I notice it and gently bring it back. This is practice. A wandering mind is normal. Sitting with it, noticing it and directing it back to a focus is all the practice is. —Lauren Bille, partner at Medi Club and The Big Quiet

Although there are some really great apps and YouTube videos out there, my main tip would be to find a real world teacher who can guide you in the moment. We learn so much on a subtle level that we don’t realize, and learning meditation needs this type of connection. Gemma Gambee, meditation teacher

Meditate in the morning

Morning is one of the best times for meditation, before the day begins. It’s best to start with simple breathing. You can inhale to the count of 10 and exhale to the count of 15. Do this for five minutes and then just observe your thoughts for the next five. I tell my students it is best to meditate for a shorter time but do it everyday without fail.

People tell me frequently they aren’t “good at meditation”, but there is no way to be bad at it unless you simply don’t do it. It’s the act of simply giving yourself permission to be with whatever’s up without needing to change it. Simply observing the ups and downs of all things. —Paula Tursi MS, MEd , ERYT Director of Reflections Center for Conscious Living & Yoga

Do it daily

There are hundreds of different types of meditation, each with their own specific design which will yield a certain result. It’s best to do some research and try a number of techniques, but once you find something that works for you, you should practice it every day. This is best advice I can give to any meditation practitioner. Become non-negotiable with your practice. This means you are committed to making it happen every day. All the wonderful results that come from meditation require an individual to actually meditate. Non-negotiable doesn’t mean perfect, optimal or ideal. Many techniques come with a number of “preferences” for their practice. Meditation is not an all or nothing proposition. It’s better to sacrifice a few preferences than to not meditate at all. —Ben Turshen, Meditation Teacher

Start with just two minutes

An easy way to get started is to say you’ll do two minutes a day. I’d start by sitting with your back straight, feet flat on the ground and then close your eyes. Focus your attention on the sensation of the breath as it comes in and out of your nostrils. What does that feel like? Does the breath feel hot or cool, or tingly? What are all the sensations that come up for you as the breath comes in and out of the nostrils?
You can glance down at the stopwatch on your phone to mind the time, and stop at two minutes. But my guess is that after a week of this you’ll start feeling the benefits and want to meditate for longer! —Dina Kaplan, founder of The Path

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